Calm (Alternative Title: Mindfulness I Can Tolerate)

I am one of the least intentionally mindful people on the planet. I move at 100 miles an hour, I always have ten projects in the air and generally consider it a successful day if I get through half of my to-do list. Recently, however, while on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I was introduced to calm.com which is a website and app dedicated to simple mindfulness exercises. What I like most about the site is that it has 3 minute guided mindfulness exercises, which are a tolerable length even for me. There are also numerous options for calming noise on the right sidebar which is a nice feature for when I’m working or reading something that doesn’t require 100% concentration.

As I’ve shared many times on here, I struggle with significant running anxiety. Interestingly, my race anxiety has decreased a ton over the past few years (maybe too much as sometimes I feel like I don’t care about race outcomes any more) but my workout anxiety remains incredibly high. I don’t sleep the night before a big workout and as I get ready to start, I’m nauseous and in full on panic mode. Flooding one’s muscles with cortisol is not exactly the way to prepare for success so I made a deal with myself to try to incorporate some mindfulness features into my pre-workout prep. Now on workout days, my routine goes warm-up –> 4 laps of jog the curve, stride the straights –> drills –> eyes closed, mindfulness moment. I close my eyes, work through one of the mindfulness actions of wiggling my toes and attending to that action and take some deep, intentional breaths. It sounds hokey and one of my biggest challenges is not rejecting the idea but my workouts have improved MARKEDLY since starting this. It could certainly be incidental but it seems that taking a few moments to focus before starting helps to bring my heart rate down and narrow my focus.

For me, a few minutes of intentional mindfulness a week is a much more tolerable way to work on focus and anxiety than yoga, which has the paradoxical effect of making me significantly more stressed about my schedule, my lack of flexibility and so on. I do still do my 20 minute routine for runners but beyond that, yoga has never seemed to work to help my mental game. I’m hopeful that adding this small touch of mindfulness will be a good addition to my pre-race routine and help me move back towards a healthy dose of anxiety and race anticipation.

Do you practice mindfulness? How do you focus yourself before workouts and races?

4 thoughts on “Calm (Alternative Title: Mindfulness I Can Tolerate)

  1. 5280000feet

    As odd as it may sound, in my earlier years as a team sport athlete the last thing I had to do prior to taking the field/court was always take a pee. I know, right? It wasn’t because my bladder was full, but it became almost a trigger for me. It wasn’t until this happened before each game that I was able to fully relax.

    As I became a casual runner as an adult I noticed the same thing happening. Before a big training run or an actual race (even a low key 5k) my pee-anxiety returned.

    This is likely the most random response to a serious question posed on your blog, but that’s how it’s always been for me.

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      This actually resonates with me. I often fixate on whether I have to pee before a workout or race and finally had to come up with a rule (in workouts, I don’t stop in races unless it’s an emergency) that if I have to pee in the first 5 miles, it’s probably nerves and if it’s after 5 miles, it’s probably real. I see a lot of my xc girls do this too; they cannot mentally prepare for the race if they haven’t had their bathroom stop.

      Reply
  2. foxrunsfast

    Oooh – I also lose lots of sleep before key workout days. Surprisingly, the anxiety is much more manageable if the workout is later in the morning. The ones that are at 5am seem to make me the most anxious. I’m definitely going to try your suggestion on the mindfulness routine before starting the workout. Does that help with the sleeplessness at all?

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      Morning workouts make me SO anxious. They are the most likely reason for me to bail on a before work run. Interestingly, if it’s supposed to be on the treadmill, I’m much less worried. I haven’t noticed the mindfulness helping with sleep but I am finding that my thought process during my warm-up is a lot more reasonable e.g. nothing bad happens if this doesn’t go to plan. Hard to tell if it’s just aging and experience calming me down a bit but I really do feel like I’m benefiting from taking a few seconds to breathe.

      Reply

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